1. Clean while you bake.
Before measuring out any ingredients, set a bowl in your sink and fill it with hot, soapy water. As soon as you're finished with measuring cups, whisks, and cookie cutters, drop them in the water to soak. They'll be a cinch to clean while your cookies are in the oven.
2. "Sifted flour" vs. "Flour, sifted"
"1 cup sifted flour" means that you should sift the flour first, then measure 1 cup from that. "1 cup flour, sifted" means to measure out 1 cup of flour and then sift it.
3. Consider a kitchen scale.
Measuring by weight is more precise than measuring by volume, and it requires fewer measuring tools – just zero out the scale after adding each ingredient. It also makes scaling recipes a snap!
4. Give it a roll.
Before slicing open citrus fruit, roll it on your countertop, applying a good amount of pressure. Doing this breaks down the fibers and produces a juicy, easy-to-squeeze fruit.
5. Hey, no peeking!
If you can bear it, keep the oven door closed as much as possible. Even peeking for just a few seconds allows heat to escape, lengthening the baking time and affecting the quality of your cake.
6. Baking times are a guide, not the rule.
Altitude, oven type, and ingredient swaps all affect how long something needs to be baked. Start checking for doneness 10 minutes before the suggested time.
7. Befriend your cooling rack.
A cooling rack stops a cake from becoming soggy (because there's no trapped steam) and prevents overbaking (warm pans will keep baking whatever is on them). They also speed up cooling, which comes in handy for the next tip...
8. Frost a cake like a pro.
Never frost a warm cake – the frosting will melt! Once the cake has completely cooled, apply a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs (called the "crumb coat"). Chill for 30 minutes, then frost the cake.
9. Bread, the secret weapon.
Keep baked goods soft by storing them in an airtight container... along with a slice of fresh bread. Moisture from the bread will prevent your cookies from going stale. (This works for hardened brown sugar, too!)
10. Share the love.
Bring a plate of cookies to work, give a box of your hand-rolled truffles as a housewarming gift, or make your best friend's day by surprising her with the cutest mini bundt cake. Mix, bake, give, and be happy.